New Mexico's Pet ResourceSPRING/SUMMER 2000

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March 7, 2000

Dear Editors:

I am writing in response to Ardeth Baxter's article in your Winter/Spring 2000 issue entitled "Play it Safe."

I am certainly in favor of animal shelters, particularly those that try to avoid putting animals down. These shelters provide a real service to their communities and should be supported and publicized. Their efforts in placing animals in caring homes is to be commended, as well. What disturbs me in Miss Baxter's article is her use of terms "backyard" and "professional" as modifiers for the word "breeder." By not defining the difference between the two more fully, I feel that Miss Baxter is doing an injustice to both.

Here is why. First of all, among "backyarders, " there are certainly animal lovers who breed their favorite animal out of joy in seeing its line extended. They exercise the same care and interest that professionals do in bringing a litter into being.

These same qualities and more typify the professional breeders who show in conformation rings and campaign their champions to bring their best qualities before others. In fact, that is the real purpose of the conformation show. And that brings me to another point.

Most professional breeders, dedicated as they are to their breed, make little or no profit on the sales of their litters. They are often lucky to "break even" after placing the pups. The costs of veterinary attention, foods and other incidentals can really add up. This is particularly true of larger breeds whose litters can number up to ten or more.

I speak from my own experience: 20 years in Irish Wolfhounds. So, I can say honestly that most professional breeders are out to accomplish one thing in their breeding programs: to promulgate the very best of their breed to the best of their abilities.

Now, having gotten that off my chest, I want to compliment Miss Baxter on the rest of her article. She covers an area, in depth, which is in need of the attention and efforts of all of us to correct.

Monro Van Sweringen

Ardeth Baxter's response:

Thank you for your thoughtful input. While your point is well taken - that many backyard breeders as well as professional breeders are in it for the love of the breed, not the money - the fact remains that breeders by their actions help condemn homeless dogs to death. And puppy mills (approximately 5,000 in this country) run by breeders with no love for animals, provide half a million purebred, often sick dogs to pet shops every year. Because of intensive inbreeding, many pure breeds suffer from genetic diseases, e.g., hypothyroidism in Akitas, blindness in Collies, deafness in Dalmations, hip dysplasia in German Shepherds, and breathing problems in Bull Dogs, Pugs and Boxers. Another sobering statistic: 15% to 25% of shelter dogs are pure breeds. One of my dogs is a purebred Chow who was dumped at a convenience stop by his former caretaker - not an uncommon practice in New Mexico.

Unfortunately, no-kill shelters and sanctuaries require a great deal of money and space that most communities aren't willing to provide, and they are not a practical solution to the tremendous overpopulation problem at this point. While I don't advocate the extinction of pure breeds in favor of mixed breeds, I agree with an ex-breeder from Los Angeles who recently suggested that a moratorium be declared on all professional breeding until the problem is under control. It really comes down to a question of personal pleasure (or profit) versus humanity and responsibility. In my opinion, we need to take care of the dogs (and cats) who already exist before we consider breeding more.

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